Institute for Business in the Global Context

Where the World of Business Meets the World

Month: April 2017

Student Research: eKutir: Finding Value at the Base of the Pyramid

by Dan Robinson (MALD 2017)

Technological solutions for agriculture in the developing world have become fairly widespread during the last decade, but challenges remain related to reaching farmers in rural, less connected areas. Well known applications such as M-Farm in Kenya have provided SMS-based market and price information to farmers, while other applications, including Esoko in Ghana, have offered information on weather patterns and other factors. However, due to lack of digital infrastructure or farmer literacy, reaching those at the base of the pyramid remains a significant challenge.

An eKutir farmer’s irrigated tomato plants

eKutir, a social business based in Bhubaneswar in the Odisha State in eastern India, has developed an ICT-based model that is designed to create value at the base of the pyramid. The eKutir model provides “micro-entrepreneurs” working in farming, food sales, and sanitation with access to technology that helps to improve productivity and streamline value chains. Over time, there is potential for this system to make a substantial impact by increasing returns on investment and reducing transaction costs throughout a wide range of value chains.

With support from the IBGC, I had an opportunity to travel to Bhubaneswar in March 2017 to meet with the eKutir management team as well as some of the farmers and entrepreneurs involved in eKutir’s value chains as part of research for my Fletcher capstone project. During my time in India, I was impressed by the consistent positivity among the various people with whom I spoke.

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This App Helps Refugees Get Bank Accounts By Giving Them A Digital Identity
by Adele Peters

…Regulatory approval is a massive challenge to overcome, and though the company is in discussions with regulators, it’s unclear how long the process may take. “I am afraid the idea is good, but it’s all in the implementation and they don’t seem to have gotten very far,” says Kim Wilson, a lecturer in international business and human security at Tufts University who is currently studying refugee issues in Greece. “[Solving regulatory problems] is, of course, the problem, and if that were solved there would be a rush of fintech.”

Read the full piece with quotes from Prof. Kim Wilson in Fast Company

Student Research: “I feel forgotten”: The Hidden Crisis of Greek Islanders

by Stratos Kamenis (MALD 2017)

The massive exodus of the Syrian people has led to a refugee crisis in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have made the long journey across Turkey and then to Greece, putting their lives in danger in the hope of finding a better future in Europe. In 2015, more than a million asylum-seekers took refuge in Europe, with another 500,000 following in the first half of 2016. A deal was struck between the European Union and Turkey in March aimed at limiting the number of migrants and regulating migration by establishing EU-administered camps – the so-called hotspots – on the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, and Kos, from where the majority of migrants enter Europe.

Refugee boats arriving to the shores of Lesvos (August 2015)

The island of Lesvos found itself under the spotlight of international media as the central entry point to Europe. Some 600,000 refugees and migrants have passed through the island over the past 19 months. After a year of coping with the crisis without aid from international organizations, the impact on Lesvos’ 85,000 permanent residents has been significant. To their credit, the locals have been gracious hosts. Their sense of tolerance and solidarity has been praised by major world figures including Pope Francis, Queen Rania of Jordan, actress Angelina Jolie and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Their humanitarian efforts have earned them a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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The End of Money
by Emily Cashen

Bhaskar Chakravorti, an economics scholar and Executive Director of the Fletcher School’s Institute for Business in the Global Context, said: “The initial argument made by Modi was that these bank notes were demonetised to flush out the underground economy – known as the ‘black economy’ in India – or to flush out the illegal activities carried out by underground groups and terrorist groups.”

Read the full piece at World Finance

GE Chief Digital Officer John Gordon Talks Technology Advances with Fletcher Students

“It’s a pretty exciting time for you all to be coming out of Fletcher,” John Gordon told an audience of Fletcher students. After all, the technology field is developing rapidly, and ideas once-considered “crazy” are driving major industry progress. Gordon knows a thing or two about noteworthy technology developments; he’s the Chief Digital Officer of Current, powered by General Electric  (GE) — an energy company that integrates GE’s LED, Solar, Energy Storage and Electric Vehicle businesses to deliver cost-effective, efficient energy solutions.

Understanding how technology evolves and the “implications of new technology trends” is of the utmost importance, Gordon told students. He referred to GE as a “big industrial company in transition” and said staying on top of the latest technology is one of the ways it stays current and drives progress.

John Gordon, Chief Digital Officer at GE, speaks as part of the IBGC Speaker Series (Photo Credit: Anthony Schultz)

Case in point? GE is known for building locomotives and engines, but at a certain point the company realized they needed to update the way they approach technology to better understand how their systems actually perform. “We decided that we needed a different type of technology that would allow us to service things better,” he explained. So GE sought out additional data to teach them how various machines, like airplanes, were operating, then started the process of analyzing.

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“Simple: No Address, No Money” by Ignacio Mas

by Ignacio Mas, CEME Senior Fellow

Sometimes small experiences can shake your confidence to the bone by exposing the fragility of things you took for granted. Such was the case with my recent trouble accessing my bank account with Simple, a new-generation digital only bank, which I described here. I’ve lost my money, simply because I can’t remember the address on record associated with the account. (I was at a transient stage in my life back then and I gave a friends’ – but which one?). I can’t be me if I don’t know my address – that thing that usually everyone else around you knows!

The financial stake for me was small, but it triggered two overwhelming thoughts.

First, your entire financial situation can change by failing to answer what in most circumstances would seem like a reasonable, straight-forward question. Who knew that in this fast-paced, information-rich digital age, something as banal as an old address can stand between you and your money? Next time it won’t be for forgetting an address, but now I can’t help worrying about what other seemingly trivial test I might fail in the future that will cause me to lose all the money in my main bank accounts. A new type of financial insecurity looms.

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Student Research: Madagascar: The Last Frontier for IT/BPO in the Francophone World?

by Domoina Rambeloarison (MIB 2017)

By 2020, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is expected to reach $220 billion. Broadly speaking, the term refers to contracting business functions and processes, typically related to information technology (IT), to a third-party service provider. It encompasses a range of activities that include customer service work, data entry, digitization, financial accounting, and other higher value-knowledge processing such as content development, legal services, engineering design, and data analytics.[1] I developed an interest in the sector in the Francophone world after noticing a wave of IT/BPO firms establish offices in my home country, Madagascar.

Teamwork in a Malagasy BPO/IT office

Curious to know more about the sector’s potential impact on the country’s economic base, I traveled to Antananarivo with support from IBGC. I interviewed the managers of four BPO firms, ranging from a large French subsidiary to a Malagasy start-up. I also met with the national information, communication, and technology (ICT) regulatory body, the ICT industry association, the tech hub, and one of the main four telecommunication companies. I learned what attracted these firms to invest and how they overcame the challenges of operating in a low-income country. More importantly, the interviews helped shape my views on how an IT/BPO sector could contribute to economic growth through investment and job creation.

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HubSpot CFO John Kinzer Discusses Company, Career at IBGC Speaker Series

How do the decisions you make over the course of your career influence your ultimate trajectory? HubSpot’s Chief Financial Officer, John Kinzer, posed this question while discussing his impressive career and current role in a presentation for The Institute for Business in the Global Context (IBGC) speaker series on March 27. Kinzer manages HubSpot’s finances and played a key role in the company’s initial public offering.

Kinzer described some of the major career decisions that paved his path to HubSpot. For instance, he said studying at Virginia Tech’s business school helped prepare him for his first major career step: entering the field of public accounting.

HubSpot CFO John Kinzer takes the audience through his career journey, HubSpot’s growth, and more as part of the IBGC Speaker Series with, “From Start-Up to Scale-Up”

After working for Arthur Anderson for several years, Kinzer took an accounting job with MCI rather than attend business school. At MCI, he gained analytical skills and learned the important connection between marketing and business.

While working at MCI, Kinzer got a call from E-centives, an online coupon company, and took a job there. “I’d been at two very big companies and wanted to do something smaller,” he explained.

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